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Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Excuse me for being hot and bothered. Someone destroyed the air conditioning unit outside our office to get $30 or $40 worth of metal to recycle in order to feed their meth habit. So, we had to deal with police reports, insurance adjusters and blistering temperatures. The cops came and did their thing. ‘˜You’re not the only ones.’ ‘˜There is a lot of this going around.’ And, frustratingly, ‘˜There is not a lot we can do.’ Well. of course, there are things that could be done. Patrols could be increased. Recycling center operators could be harassed hourly until they cooperate to stop this scourge. But, the will is not there, so the war is not waged. Secondly, when thieves like these are caught, they are back on the streets before the ink is dry on their paperwork. Then they go to court, plea bargain the case down to nothing with the aid of a public defender paid for by their victims and leave free as jaybirds. There is a way for the court system to punish them. Plea bargains are not mandatory. Slaps on the wrist are not required. There is just no collective prosecutorial will to punish them. It is easier to favor the criminal over the victim. That makes for more criminals who are bolder than ever and leaves victims seething. I spend a lot of time in court and I rarely see victims leaving the place happy with the outcome of the cases involving them. At a tax hearing the other night I listened as irate citizens demanded inmates be shackled into work crews and put to work cutting grass on the side of the road to save taxpayer dollars. There was a long song and dance about how hard it is to get back to the days of the chain gang. Same story. There is a way to put inmates ‘“ even the most violent ‘“ to work. Chain them together in groups according to the level of violence they are accused of. The most violent can pick up trash. Those with lesser violent tendencies can carry sling blades and cut the grass manually. Inmates who refuse get minimal food portions, solitary confinement, no phone calls and no commissary account. They will beg for roadside duty. The cost to the taxpayers? One guard with a shotgun, quick trigger finger and lots of ammo. There is a way. There just is no will. Our law enforcement, penal and judicial institutions coddle criminals. Good officers make arrests but they often arrest the same people over and over because their superiors do not have the will to dole out harsh punishment – to make jail or prison a miserable existence. Which brings us to the Donna Johnson case. After months of digging into this matter, I am convinced the brutal killing has not been solved because someone up the chain does not want it solved. I am also near certain there was at least one complicit cop who helped the killers in the hours after the murder. Sure the heavy rain hurt the investigation. But these people had to have made mistakes. In my opinion, those mistakes were covered by someone with authority ‘“ someone with a lot to lose ‘“ someone with the sway to take away the will of many others to make arrests. As always, there is a way. When the grand jury convenes next month, its foreman becomes the most powerful person in Lamar County for several days. The grand jury can call for a report on the investigation. It can subpoena whomever it wants to testify on the status of the investigation. It can throw its weight around, hold feet to the fire and demand some answers. That is the way. The only thing in doubt is the will.

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